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The Gatepost Editorial: We need more ‘FaceTime’

A hand holding a smartphone, receiving a call from "nature." It reads "touch grass" behind it.

By The Gatepost Editorial Board

The 2024 total solar eclipse passed Framingham State on Monday, April 8 with approximately 93% coverage.

In the moments preceding and following the peak of the eclipse, the college saw a huge number of students, faculty, and even staff stop what they were doing to gather outside on the lawns of May, Crocker, and Dwight halls.

The sense of community was palpable, as hundreds came to celebrate the rare lunar phenomenon together. 

And while it was an amazing experience, there’s still one question we can’t get off our minds at The Gatepost:

“Why on Earth don’t we spend more time together like that?”

In a period where interconnectedness is at its peak, with communication devices in our hands at all times preloaded with multiple ways to communicate with people from all over the world…

Why do community events like the eclipse viewing feel so rare - and why do we feel more lonely than ever?

It is largely because of the amount of time we spend on our phones and other devices. 

According to an article published by WJAR, a RI-based news station and an NBC Television affiliate, the “average American spends 4 hours and 37 minutes staring at their phone every day. That adds up to one day a week and eventually 12 years of our lives spent staring at our phones.

“The average Gen Z survey respondent said they spend 6 hours and 5 minutes a day on their smartphone,” according to the same article. 

Subsequently, technology has rapidly heightened people’s feelings of loneliness, with one study cited in a report finding, “People who used social media for two hours or more daily were more than twice as likely to report feeling socially isolated than those who were on such apps for less than 30 minutes a day,” according to an article published by CBS News. 

So what does this mean for us, when social media apps such as TikTok create precise algorithms to match our particular interests and needs?

It means learning to resist our phones, and to make time for the real world. 

Screen time can be a literal addiction. And like any addiction, it isn’t easy to quit - especially not all at once.

Try setting up a screen time limiter on your device to keep you from scrolling for hours. Even if the amount you set isn’t restricting a significant amount of time, the guilt of adding an extra 15 minutes might help you more than you’d expect. 

Avoid using your phone before bed, especially short-form video content, as it can keep you glued to your device when you should be winding down.

Instead of using Instagram for 30 minutes before bed, try listening to a podcast, or playing white noise on your phone. This can give you the stimulation of your phone without it having 100% of your attention.

And finally, remember it’s always easier to quit something when you have something else lined up to take its place. Try drawing instead, or head to the athletic center. No matter what, you’ll feel more accomplished doing anything other than spending a few hours on TikTok.

Put your phone down and start interacting with people in person! 

Face-to-face interactions, even if brief, will make you feel more connected to your community over time.

Think about the eclipse. Although there were plenty of phones out during that time, it was nice that we were all outside together. The most important part is the fact we shared a moment that some of us will never see in our lives again.

And we were able to share that as a university.

But these shared interactions don't always have to be because of momentous events like the eclipse. It could be talking about current events while waiting in the Dunkin’ Donuts line or attending a schoolwide event like Sandbox on May 3!

However you choose to interact with your community, try to do it without looking at your phone - even if it is just for five minutes.

The sun is coming out and the temperature is finally starting to rise. Maybe take a walk around campus with some friends and count how many budding flowers you can find - or play a game of pick-up frisbee on Larned Beach. 

Try to get some “FaceTime” with your peers this last month of the 2023- 24 academic year. Try something new, play outside, or just take a walk.

It doesn’t really matter what you decide to do - just don’t keep adding to those 12 years of your life spent looking at your phone. We only have a month left of the semester. Make these college moments count! 

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